Best Laid Plans Goals Habits

Friday Work Shutdown: What do I consider CLEARED?

September 18, 2020

In theory, my ritual is to clear the decks every Friday. A big part of my job(s?) is not missing a lot of minor deadlines and loose ends, and obviously the patient care portion is very important to stay current with, too. I do not do all of my next week’s planning on Friday, but I do have a shutdown routine that I aim to do weekly. (AIM to do. Nope, I am not perfect!)

My Weekly Work Shutdown Routine:

❏ Clear out EPIC (electronic health record) Inbox: ideally entirely empty of EVERYTHING or if not, ensure it is nearly empty and entirely triaged (ie no unread results). Mine is now mostly empty other than 3 lab call backs I will do on Monday because none are urgent and they probably will take a while and are better off done in office.

Work Email: INBOX ZERO. Look, outlook is smiling at me. Now I need to close the window before a new message gets in . . .

Work Non-Clinical To Do List: Looked at, groomed, thought about. I keep two, currently: a “Waiting/Follow Up” folder in my email that look through weekly, and a list in Apple Notes. This week I managed to fully review & clean up the list.

Why separate? Most of the things I leave in the email box are like . . . annoying things that I don’t even feel need to hit my real to do list yet. Or things that I am waiting for someone else to do, but just want the reminder. Usually these are also things to follow up (if needed) via email, so it’s right there.

The Apple Notes lists are more like active projects lists with associated notes. If you’re curious, here’s what my Notes setup looks like:

One bigger “Active Projects List” and then some other pages for dedicated projects/reference. I had to change my resident’s name to zzz to avoid sharing anything real 🙂

I look at the Active Projects List weekly in an ideal world but I have to admit sometimes the week ends in a series of calamities and it doesn’t happen.


Something I don’t do . . .

I don’t usually set specific and concrete goals for next week yet. I have a basic idea in my mind, but Friday afternoons I honestly don’t have that mindset. I think it’s partly that I don’t WANT to spend my weekend pre-thinking about the potential stressors of the next week! Instead, I do this heavy duty planning on Monday mornings, early (ie around 5 am).

To allow for this, Monday is usually when I take a rest day from working out. I use this ‘extra’ time to really examine/highlight my calendar, and then, based on how much unstructured time I have available, I glance back at the cleaned-up lists (plus last week’s weekly list) and think about which projects I can move forward on.

It works . . . decently enough

I would like to end this post with another reminder that I am not a machine who always gets everything done 🙂 I do not usually drop balls, but admittedly on occasion I may THROW THEM on the floor and purposefully decide not to do them. Or I push them into the next decade (or so). For example, I had a clinical research project with some potential that sort of got started by a rotating med student* but I got tired of seeing it in my “Waiting/Follow Up” folder and then one week I just deleted it.

(I don’t really like doing research, so that’s not a huge surprise!)

((But I have to do SOME because PDs are expected to maintain some degree of ‘scholarly inquiry’))


I feel good today having gotten through all of that! Plans for the night include maybe finishing Tell Me Three Things, supervising Movie Night, and ice cream. Not too bad.

Happy Friday! (I recognize that probably no one wants to read this post at 5PM on Friday, but perhaps I’ll link to it next week!

And Happy New Year for those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah; the kids have requested apples & honey but admittedly the whole shebang feels pretty anticlimactic without family gatherings (ie, the part of the holiday that means something to me!).

* The student was a 4th year and had already graduated, moved to another institution, and started residency in another field. I figured I could always resurrect it if they contacted me and really wanted to finish!


  • Reply Lori C September 18, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    I loved this post! In a prior job my workload was heavier and more project based so I had a Friday PM shutdown / Monday morning week prep routine…. but my current job is relatively task oriented so there aren’t a whole lot of loose ends to track or things to plan. I love the idea of a routine though to officially shut down the week!!

    Happy New Year! I’m currently supervising Movie Night myself as I type this! And watching YouTube videos about planners because why not? Hee hee

  • Reply Grateful Kae September 18, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    I just happened to click on your blog at 5 pm on a Friday and read this. Do I get a reader gold star?? LOL! 🙂

  • Reply Teresa September 18, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    I thought that I would share the 2021 planner I chose, which seems to combine the best of the Full Focus and Hobonichi techo in one. Its from Wonderland 222 with a weekly view and bujo pages plus several other features. I am getting the 5×7 size, so in between a5 and a6 and an affordable leather cover from amazon. Maybe you could check it out for your podcast. Anyway, I am no way affiliated with this company. Just sharing something that I am super excited about for 2021.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 18, 2020 at 7:56 pm

      Ok it is rare that something actually makes me rethink hobonichi but omgggggg that planner looks fantastic!!!!!

    • Reply Marthe September 19, 2020 at 9:33 am

      That is a great planner! Immediately ordered one… although I usually plan in my google calendar, this paper planner seems to have it all!

    • Reply Danielle September 19, 2020 at 10:41 am

      Oh my! My two favorite planners are Hobonichi Techo and Full Focus. I just got a new Full Focus to finish out 2020 but haven’t officially decided what I’m doing for 2021.

      I think I’m going to spend my Saturday morning with coffee, checking out this planner, and catching up on Best Laid Plans!

  • Reply Kate D September 18, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    Do you move emails to subfolders, and file everything or how do you organize them? I’m curious and I need a system.

    • Reply Diane C. September 18, 2020 at 10:18 pm

      I was wondering the same thing! What is your process for getting to inbox zero? I currently have over 10 000 emails in my inbox. It’s a combination of read emails that I think are important, read emails that I forget to delete, emails unread because the content was in the subject line, unread junk mail, read junk mail… I didn’t think it was a problem but I’m starting to run out of space and honestly the clutter is getting to me.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 19, 2020 at 6:18 am

        After processing it/acting on it as needed, I stick almost everything into a generic archives folder; I figure I can search if needed. There are a few things I know I’ll need for reference that I put into folders to make them easier to find because our work search function can be a little slow and sometimes it’s easy to have everything all in one place (resident research projects for example – since I know I’ll need to pull them up later all together).

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 19, 2020 at 6:20 am

      For gmail, everything goes into archives except for ONE folder of podcast questions (to make them easy to find). For work email, similar – everything in archives except for a few specific things. I only put into folders what I’d TRULY want in a physical folder (not that I print it, but you know what I mean).

  • Reply Jenn September 19, 2020 at 5:30 am

    Did you like Tell Me Three Things??

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 19, 2020 at 6:19 am

      I would say I liked but did not love it 🙂 I figured I knew the punchline like 50 pages into the book but then I felt like it was a little dragged out! It was enjoyable, though.

  • Reply Coco September 19, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    I feel you about not making plans for next week on friday afternoon. my energy level is so low by then that I just want to finish the week! 🙂 Monday is also my rest day so I start slow with a long walk and sort it out my plans for the week and write them down while walking in apple notes. It’s less overwhelming and let me enjoy the weekend more.

  • Reply Maria September 20, 2020 at 7:46 am

    Great post! Are Fridays always non-clinical days for you or are you able to block off time otherwise? I don’t do this for email but do try to clean up task to-dos either Friday or Saturday morning… somewhat due to my weekly paper planner and not wanting to rewrite them :). Definitely makes a better Monday not having a bunch of open items from the prior week!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2020 at 7:49 am

      Fridays are always nonclinical for me currently unless I am on call

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